Amazon is full of crazy ideas. The company recently filed a patent for a warehouse that flies at 45,000 feet and shoots out small unmanned aircraft to deliver packages. Yes, it sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie. Yes, it’s real. It was first spotted by CBInsights analyst Zoe Leavitt.
The idea behind Amazon’s Airborne Fulfillment Center, or AFC for short, is basically a warehouse that cruises around at 45,000 feet. When an order is received, Amazon finds it inside the floating fulfillment center, loads it up into a unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, or drone), and sends it down for delivery.
Then, you, sitting on your back porch sipping your lemonade, gaze to the skies as a whirring drone pops through the clouds, drops a package on your deck, and shoots back into the sky. In the distance, you see similar packages being dropped off around your neighborhood.
“As the UAVs descend, they can navigate horizontally toward a user specified delivery location using little to no power, other than to stabilize the UAV and/or guide the direction of descent,” Amazon’s patent says. “Shuttles (smaller airships) may be used to replenish the AFC with inventory, UAVs, supplies, fuel, etc. Likewise, the shuttles may be utilized to transport workers to and from the AFC.
The patent doesn’t necessarily mean Amazon will ever do this, but it’s plausible. Amazon is already working to deliver packages via drone through Amazon Prime Air. This could be the next step. The fulfillment centers would be costly, however. I can’t imagine how much fuel Amazon would need to keep a massive mothership in the sky while drones empty and fill it with packages. Would it be a permanent station with fueling requirements? Perhaps we’ll see the resurgence of blimps.